The Nots Made The Browns Have-Nots Again In 2012
By Steven King
For the Cleveland Browns in the 2012 season, the nots were the story.
Not having enough offense, especially not enough touchdowns…not having CB Joe Haden early in the year…not having a healthy RB Trent Richardson for over half the season… not being able to beat good teams with any regularity.
Add it all up, and it comes out to not enough victories.
These deficiencies pretty much sum up a year in which Cleveland, at 5-11, posted a club-record fifth straight losing record. Three other times, the team had lost four in a row.
This is why the Browns have a new management regime in president Joe Banner and GM Mike Lombardi as well as a new coach in Rob Chudzinski. Fans may complain about the constant coaching and regime changes, but until the losing stops, neither will this revolving door.
Below is a quick look at the key games that shaped the 2012 season and made certain that ex-coach Pat Shurmur and former GM Tom Heckert would not return this year:
Pointing out the biggest problem – Sept. 9: Philadelphia Eagles 17, Cleveland 16
The season opener was not unlike a lot of games the Browns have played in the expansion era, particularly these last five years. Their defense forced five turnovers, including four interceptions of QB Michael Vick, and yet they still scored just 16 points. Every NFL rule change in the last 35 years has been made to enhance scoring, because that’s what fans say overwhelmingly they want to see in all the surveys the league conducts. With that said, when a team fails to score in the 20s – which Cleveland did a stunning total of eight times last year – then it has absolutely no chance to win consistently. Too many times over the years the offense has been offensive; this was the start of yet another year of that.
A cornerstone of the team – Oct. 7: New York Giants 41, Cleveland 27
Who is the Browns’ most valuable and indispensable player? It could well be Haden. With their shutdown cornerback being suspended by the NFL for Week 2-5 after testing positive for a banned substance, they dropped all four contests and were torched through the air in each one. The last game in that streak was the worst: Giants QB Eli Manning threw three touchdown passes. His ability to pass opened up the running game and New York rumbled for 243 yards en route to gaining 502 yards overall. The loss dropped Cleveland to 0-5, thus dooming its season and in essence sealing the fate of Shurmur and Heckert. When Haden returned the next week, the Browns defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 34-24 after losing 34-27 to them a month earlier.
Two bad breaks – Oct. 21: Indianapolis Colts 17, Cleveland 13
Injuries are a part of the game, but the one suffered by Richardson in this Week 7 contest – he broke two ribs -- did a lot to limit the effectiveness of the offense for the rest of the season. To his credit, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft toughed it out, kept playing and ran for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns on the year. With 50 receptions, he was just three behind team leader Greg Little. But once he got hurt, Richardson was never really the same and it made an already bad offense that much worse.
Red-faced in the red zone – Nov. 4: Baltimore Ravens 25, Cleveland 15
The object of football is to score touchdowns. They count six points, which is twice as much as a field goal. The Browns didn’t understand that last year and haven’t since 2007. They were in the red zone all day against the Ravens and came away with five field goals. About the only good to come from the game was K Phil Dawson 5-for-5 effort on field-goal attempts.
Buck up, Brownies – Dec. 16: Washington Redskins 38, Cleveland 21
Despite their horrific 0-5 start, the Browns had scratched and clawed their way back to 5-8 and were thinking they could keep winning and finish at .500. Granted, 5-8 is hardly a great record, but considering the hole they were in at one point, it wasn’t that bad. The comeback was built on a three-game winning streak against two poor teams in the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs, and a Pittsburgh Steelers club that turned the ball over eight times with QB Charlie Batch subbing for the injured Ben Roethlisberger. So maybe the Browns’ string of victories was tainted a bit. But they had a chance to prove that they were indeed improved when they hosted the streaking, playoff-bound Redskins. Cleveland failed miserably in that regard, being outscored 28-7 in the second half after leading 14-10 at the break. And this was without having to face rookie QB Robert Griffin III, who was out with a knee injury. With their balloon burst, the Browns dropped their final two games.